The Australian Chamber Orchestra and its enterprising leader, violinist Richard Tognetti, wade with these popular Mozart works into a field with plenty of competition, and the results, as usual with this popular group, range from good to superb. The performances are generally oriented toward historical practice; the string players use gut strings, tuned slightly below modern concert pitch, and the oboes and horns are historically appropriate instruments. In general matters of attack and phrasing, the players do not diverge too far from modern practice, and Tognetti, in his own notes (in English, German, and French), points out that even if treatises of the period laid down certain procedures in regard to these matters, the notoriously capricious Mozart might well have done something completely different.
Haydn's student Ignace Joseph Pleyel was nearly as prolific as his Austrian parents (he was one of 38 children), and not all of the various attempts to revive his work have found music worth reviving. His music remains mostly unknown, and instrumentalists and ensembles haven't sorted through it to find the gems. This effort by virtuoso German clarinetist Dieter Klöcker, who also wrote the rather abstract but cogent booklet notes, is one of the best contributions yet. The clarinet was a new instrument in Pleyel's time, and was undergoing rapid change.
Over a decade before Richard Wagner's Valkyries took their celebrated ride, August Bournonville and Johann Peter Emilius Hartmanns Valkyrie danced on the Danish stage. Born in Copenhagen, son of French dancers, Bournonville founded the national Danish ballet with a series of ballets drawing its themes from Nordic mythology and early Danish history. For his first such project, Bournonville turned to his childhood friend Hartmann, who already had established himself as a composer of music on national themes.
If this is the future of Mozart performance practice, the future is secure. The combination of period instrument violinist Giuliano Carmignola and modern instrument conductor Claudio Abbado leading the youthful period instrument Orchestra Mozart produces something new under the sun: a hybrid of both approaches that takes the best from both and creates something fresh and shining. Carmignola, the leader of Venice's Teatro La Fenice and one of Italy's best period violinists, has a focused tone, a lively sense of rhythm, and a wonderful feeling for line and color.